Religious tensions are simmering across the Indonesian archipelago. In Maluku, four Pakistani Islamists were deported on 26 February for provocative activities. These included preaching sermons that the police said had the potential to re-ignite religious conflict.
In Central Sulawesi, Rev Renaldy Damanik (who survived an attempt on his life at Christmas while in custody) remains in detention in Palu. His health has deteriorated seriously due to liver disease and Hepatitis B. He was admitted to the Salvation Army Hospital on 25 February, but the next day the judge ordered his removal to the Undata Public Hospital of Palu.
The charge of possessing illegal weapons was so weak that Damanik is now accused of being a provocateur of religious violence. That is a flimsy charge against one known as a signatory to the Malino Peace Accord, an active Christian leader, the head of the Crisis Centre for the Church of Central Sulawesi, humanitarian, peacemaker and advocate for disarmament. He is protesting the charge by boycotting his trial.
Papua is a potential flashpoint. Police in Sorong recently arrested a Pakistani Islamist for possessing 12 hand-made bombs, 1650 arrows, and hundreds of slingshots. A large number of Laskar Jihad militants are being trained by the Indonesian military in camps on the northern border with PNG.
Transmigrant Javanese now form Muslim majorities in several Papuan towns, with Islamist activities such as jihad training and the delivery of provocative sermons, videos and Islamist literature taking place openly. The Indonesian government has signed a decree that violates the 2001 Special Autonomy Law by dividing Papua into three provinces.
Church leaders are strongly opposing this as it will weaken Papua's autonomy and marginalise the Christian majority, most of whom will be in just one province.
To top all this, the Indonesian military has drafted a 'Military Bill' that is presently before the Assembly. They aim to secure greater military power, giving 'separatism' as the reason they should control security as well as defence. They want to be free to declare an emergency and deploy military forces to any 'security disturbance' without first consulting the President.
Thus, the military could cite 'separatism' in Central Sulawesi, Maluku or Papua as an emergency and send in troops. Powerful supporters of the bill include the chairman of the Golkar Party, Akbar Tandjung, and the chairman of the National Mandate Party, Amien Rais, who is also the chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly, the country's highest legislative body.